Lay Arahants. Why not?

Then we should ask Gabriel which texts he makes inferences from. From what I know about him, it is pretty hard to imagine he is a big Buddhavamsa fan, but again, he is welcome to prove me wrong if he wishes :grinning: I also think that it would do more justice to your viewpoint to study the Nikayas or at least have a look at them and find out what the older stratum of the Canon had to say on the matter: maybe you will find support for your claim, maybe you won’t. Otherwise your argument about the Earth based on a very late text doesn’t look very convincing on an EBT forum. It is as much a matter of rational inquiry as discussing the life conditions on our planet millions of years ago, just in the textual dimension :grinning:

Besides, coming back to the original topic and your original post, what would be your definition of a lay person and renunciant person?

From what I remember there are also place-names mentioned. Places that were known during the life and times of ‘Gotama the Buddha’ were earlier Buddha’s - many millions of years earlier - were said to have wandered, practiced and taught. There are also accounts of solitary Buddha’s who lived in an impossibly distant past and practiced in seclusion. It would be helpful to have a posting of the life of an ancient Buddha, with references to where they spent their time and what kind of lifestyle they pursued.

I have heard teachings about Buddha’s living on other planets - from ‘U ba kin’ but I do not know his sources. We don’t have any accounts anywhere of the lives of Buddha’s on other planets - do we?

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Do any of these stories have definite time frames?

It seems that the concept of a Buddha was not unknown to people in Gotama’s time, even before Gotama was declared to be one. Some earlier Buddhas were identified by name, and presumably had some body of lore or teaching attached to that name.

A plausible conjecture is that the named Buddhas who are not entirely mythological were famous sages who had lived in the recent historical past, perhaps no more than a century or two prior to Gotama, and that the vague sense that these people had lived “a long time ago” was elaborated by the subsequent tradition in line with the more cosmic time scale, as well as by a need to preserve the specialness of the Buddha by insisting on only one fully awakened Buddha per Aeon.

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Ok, here is a time frame, we have the story of the Bodhisatta beginning his career before becoming Gotama the Buddha. This is said to have happened millions of years ago here on Earth. The stories about the Bodhisatta’s life times are staged on Earth - not in some other world-system. The stories we have of our Buddha’s past lives are about humans and royalty and animals in the forest. They talk about peacocks, elephants and monkeys, species found in the forests on the sub-continent. They talk about princes and princesses, Raja’s and their Rani’s, dynasties and the lives of humble villagers. All of these stories, the tools and weapons, the clothes they wear and the artifacts they use are conspicuously Indian.

The lifestyles, decor, architecture, clothing and lifestyles of the Deva’s also resemble the courts and habits of ancient Indian royalty - could this be a coincidence? :wink:

Maybe everything sounds so Indian because the language used was an Indian language, and the context of the discourses was ancient Indian society - it would have been pretty meaningless for the Buddha to go around talking in a language no one understood and referring to abstract things which people had absolutely no way of conceptualizing. Perhaps the truth about divine existence (for example) is beyond our normal human understanding, although some kind of a hint about it can be given through language.

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Yes, anything is possible but there is a simpler and more straightforward explanation. These stories look like cultural artifacts - plain and simple. Why not?

For me, this takes nothing away from the genius of the Buddha. I don’t need to have a Buddha who has a perfect understanding of prehistory to make him a fully enlightened being.

These strange historical accounts take nothing away from the reality of the four noble truths and their liberating potential. In all the good stuff the Buddha was impossible to fault! However, if he actually believed in a human history that extended back in time to a period before oxygen then it may just be the case that these accounts are based on the prevalent cultural narratives at the time? They may have something to do with stories and theories he imbibed from his culture. The account of yugas and kalpas predates the Buddha. He may have drawn on these teachings in his understanding of the past?

In the original teaching there is some debate around the omniscience of the Buddha. In the Mahayana the Buddha is most definitely omniscient. I don’t see why he needs to be omniscient? I don’t see why we need to have a Buddha who could never get anything wrong or make mistakes?

I certainly like the idea of sticking with the 4 Noble Truths even if everything else is out - if you must cling to something, cling to the 4NTs!

Talking about “Before oxygen” is another example of failed imagination IMO - Might there have been oxygen at some point before the (most recent) big bang?

Science has discovered when oxygen became the prominent gas in the atmosphere. There was life on Earth before that period but it did not breathe oxygen. Again, we are not talking about oxygen rich atmospheres on other planets far away a long time ago. We are talking about events on Earth that involve human beings and civilization at a very early period of the Earth’s history. You may believe I lack imagination. Imagination is a good thing but clear headed reasoning is also useful. We have to get the balance right?

We don’t have to stick with the noble truths we have to realise them. There is a big difference! :innocent:

We are talking about events on Earth that involve human beings and civilization at a very early period of the Earth’s history.

I’m not so sure about that - it seems to me that you might be trying to map Buddhist cosmology/cosmogony (if we can call it that) onto current scientific models, which do not have much if anything to say about the state of things “before” the big bang. It’s an interesting project, and a natural thing to do. I guess I’m not sure why you insist that previous Buddhas established their dispensations on this very planet earth. Maybe there was a previous planet earth - or can you point to some specific place in the nikayas that would indicate what you are suggesting?

I agree - we’re not really meant to cling to the Four Noble Truths. But if one starts getting into the business of dispensing with various aspects of the Buddha’s teachings, as found in the EBTs, one should at least “cling” to the Four Noble Truths (and thereby prevent entering into an entirely nihilistic view - or maybe subscribing to some other religious/philosophical doctrines) - that was the point I was trying to get across. :grin:

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Yes, there may have been a previous planet Earth but we have to establish whether these accounts are about a previous planet Earth or this one? If they were a previous planet Earth then the Buddha might have said: in a previous world-cycle there was a planet - just like this one, but different - and on that planet in a different world-system there lived a Buddha named …

The Buddha did talk about Universal beginnings and endings and, ten thousand fold world-systems etc. - from what I have heard - but I don’t think he talked about the biographies of his predecessor’s with regard to other world-systems? The Buddha also seems to have been in the right ball-park when it comes to the age of the universe which is astonishing.

Why would he neglect to mention that he was referring to a previous planet Earth - or another planet elsewhere - in his historical account when he is telling us so many other details? It does not add-up, make sense to me, but I could be wrong. :slightly_smiling_face:

I was referring to the introduction of the Vinaya Vibhanga.
There the Buddha acknowledges past Buddhas and present a big picture of how they went about teaching others.
In all cases those Buddhas lived secluded and taught both lay and contemplative disciples. And in the case of those who established a code of conduct their teachings and contemplative communities lasted longer than in the case of those who didn’t.
In that text the Buddha does not place things in time. But of course these Buddhas could have only existed in immemorial times.
I pointed that text to make the point that it is hard to use EBTs to sustain a belief in a lay samma sambuddha. EBTs are consistent in regards to pointing the contemplative livelihood as a both facilitator of awakening and the virtue it embodies a manifestation of awakening.
To me, there’s truth in this account but I am unable to present archeological findings to support previous Buddhas.
Also, we’re all free to choose whatever working assumption pleases us about the world. If someone wants to believe Metteya will be a samma sambuddha in jeans (or maybe khaki?), married and who teaches in between work shifts a eightfold path devoid of the contemplative model of livelihood, he/she is free to do so and wait and see if that happens or not!


Do you believe this account of history happened on this planet Earth in some prehistoric time frame? And if you don’t, what is said in the account you are drawing on that suggests in any way, shape or form, that these events happened on another planet similar to this Earth - but different? Did the Buddha spell this out or not? If he did not, it is reasonable to assume, he must have been talking about his predecessor’s on this planet?

We can also assume as you did in a previous comment that we could even use the accounts of fictional non-exististent Buddha’s as evidence that previous Buddha’s were monastics. This sounds like taking the tooth-fairy’s word for it - in a movie - that the fairies take our teeth as children and make houses out of them. If I had to choose between believing in a Buddha in jeans and the evidence provided by the accounts of a fictional Buddha, I would take the former notion as more credible. :heart_eyes:

I am unable to tell. I do however believe it is something the Buddha talked about and probably relates to one of the three superhuman knowledges (tevijja) he attained as of his awakening.
I don’t rule out these previous Buddhas taught in times so remote that this rock we live in was not yet fully formed and the five aggregates could have only got together in a complexity similar to the one it manifests in our human specie in a different planet elsewhere in this galaxy or universe.

Why do you feel it necessary to believe in such things? Do we need to believe in these things to realise Nibbana? Do you believe in every word and concept that the Buddha shared with us? Do you feel the need to believe in an all-knowing Buddha who had not a single idea that was a product of his cultural background? If you think it may be possible that some of the ideas the Buddha had about the world - like references to kalpas - might have been something he learned about in his earlier life? Why not? You don’t need superhuman powers to talk about kalpas and Universal cycle’s. These are themes that were in circulation before the Buddha was born.

Laurence, I really appreciate your interest in my views but I believe this is not the topic of this discussion and very frankly deviate a lot from the conversation we have been having up until this point. I will leave your questions unanswered if that does not bother you.

Note however that, having in mind the conversation we had here, I created a topic for us to discuss past Buddhas. Check it out and please consider contributing:


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I will visit that thread - thankyou. It would be even juicier if you created a thread where we could explore why we believe in things that are somewhat extraneous and unrelated to the main theme of the teachings. We could then explore our underlying and half-baked assumptions and the reasons we feel it is important to swallow everything, hook, line and sinker? This may help us to understand ourselves more clearly. As you know, many religious people resist any kind of questioning of their beliefs because it makes them feel insecure. Finding holes and ambiguities in their belief system can make them question what they are doing - and why. As Buddhists, we leave no stone unturned. :wink:

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Laurence, maybe you are not aware but by making your target your assumption that I ‘swallow everything’ found in EBTs you are bringing up a straw man to our conversation. :sweat:

If memory does not fail me. We ended up talking to each other because when you brought up that a lay Samma Sambuddha was something possible I called your attention to the fact that in EBTs the Buddha is said to have talked about previous Samma SamBuddhas and all of them had lived secluded and taught both lay and contemplative disciples. And in the case of those who established a code of conduct their teachings and contemplative communities lasted longer than in the case of those who didn’t.

I referred to that text to make the point that it is hard to use EBTs to sustain a belief in a lay samma sambuddha. EBTs are consistent in regards to pointing the contemplative livelihood as a both facilitator of awakening and the virtue it embodies a manifestation of awakening.

To keep the conversation fair, instead of fighting the straw man of my belief on such accounts, it would be more productive if you could find in EBTs any support to your view that maybe a future Samma Sambuddha will follow a different path and fullfil that role wearing jeans (or maybe khaki?) instead of robes, be married and who teach his disciples in between work shifts a eightfold path devoid of the contemplative model of livelihood.

Just to be clear, I am sure that it is now clear that we agree to disagree on the belief of a lay samma sambuddha. I discard it completely and you don’t. The question is whether we can find any support to that hypothesis in what we find in EBTs.



I don’t mean you - you are a sincere and questioning Buddhist! I am referring to religious people who don’t question enough! It is no secret that we all have underlying assumptions - that are not that clear. In addition, many of us have our pet-theories. I am merely questioning - I have been encouraged to do this by my Buddhist teachers.

I did not dismiss the idea that Buddha’s are always celibate monastics - I was just keeping an open mind. I try to do this with regard to matters of faith were I am unable to establish a high degree of certainty. I try not to feign understanding where there is none.

I agree Bhante.
Some times it is difficult to live a lay life just being a Buddhist.


I think there was a contemporary teacher from another tradition that was also considered as or, referred to as a Buddha - is this correct? Apparently he was not the ‘real deal’. It is a term we find in Sanskrit as well - perhaps it is found in early Vedic texts? What is the earliest source in Indian religious literature - anyone?